Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pod People (Altura Films, 1983)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I had the idea to play a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode first and then something more substantial later. The Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode I played was one from 1991 called Pod People, which from the title I was expecting would be a cheap ripoff of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It probably would have been a better movie if it had been! Instead it was a badly dubbed, ridiculously edited whiplash-inducing mess of a movie dealing with poachers in a forest, a pop-rock group with a ridiculously arrogant lead singer who is juggling affairs with at least two women, a former poacher turned forest ranger, his wife and their kids, including a typically obnoxious movie kid who befriends an extraterrestrial who looks like a cross between the one on the TV series ALF (a comparison which did not escape the MST3K gang, needless to say!) and the old two-legged elephant mascot of the San Francisco Zoo.

The gimmick is that the alien is running around killing people, and for some reason imprinting seven bright white dots on its victims’ foreheads that make them look like astronomical maps of the Big Dipper. The kid insists that the alien is nice and friendly, and that it’s another alien of the same species that arrived on the same spaceship that’s doing the killings — and it’s not at all clear from the way the picture is edited whether there are two aliens or just the one. What made this movie particularly risible is the sheer speed with which it intercuts between seemingly unrelated plot lines, and the absolute lack of anything remotely resembling continuity — it turned out to be a Franco-Spanish production from 1983 called The New Extraterrestrials (and it’s pretty obvious where they got the idea of a “cute” E.T. that befriends a child!) — which makes the film seems positively post-modern.